Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s circle continues

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s major contribution to the bluegrass canon is an album that also stands as its overall peak: “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” a 1972 landmark of roots music. Pairing the Dirt Band with elders including Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs and Mother Maybelle Carter, “Circle” was a multi-generational summit that presented old classics to a new audience – hence the album’s subtitle, “Music forms a new Circle.”

For a lot of years, the Dirt Band seemed content to let “Circle” stand as a one-time-only artifact. But then came a late-1980s European tour with Johnny Cash and Maybelle’s daughter, June Carter Cash.

“June came up to us one night and said, ‘You know, if you ever do another “Circle” album, John and I would love to be on it,’” recalled Dirt Band frontman Jeff Hanna, calling from Nashville. “We were pretty much on the phone with our manager the next day: ‘Yeah, maybe it’s time to do another one!’ I admit I had been one of the holdouts who thought ‘Circle’ should stay a freestanding singular entity, despite pressure to do another one. But after getting blessings from June Carter and Johnny Cash, what could we say besides, ‘Of course’?”

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